Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Grand Am Season Review Tavares, Florida m- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team completed their first full season in the Grand American Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Reserve. The team completed...
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Grand Am Season Review
Tavares, Florida m- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team completed their first full season in the Grand American Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Reserve. The team completed the 14-race schedule posting two race wins, one qualifying race win and standing on the podium a total of seven times.
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team driver Mike Rockenfeller finished fifth in the season ending drivers point standings with teammate Patrick Long coming in tenth in the Daytona Prototype category. The Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports entry finished fifth in the Daytona Prototype team standings. Rockenfeller was awarded the first ever MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of Year Award, and took home a check for $10,000. The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing team received the Performance Drink Endurance Challenge Award based upon their best overall average finish in the 2006 endurance races at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Miller Motorsport Park, an award worth $4,000. The team also received the award for the Rolex Moment of the Year, as determined by the fans, for Rockenfeller's last turn, last lap pass at Virginia International Raceway coming from third to win the race.
Mike Rockenfeller ended the season on a high-note taking home the Grand Am Rookie of the Year Award. "Getting the Rookie of the Year award is a nice bonus and is a tribute to the team. Daytona and VIR were definitely the highlights for me on the year. At Daytona we had a strong driver lineup and we really had a great car. We were able to lead the race several times after coming back from mechanical problems and really had the car to beat. VIR was a dream win with Ruby Tuesday on the car for the first time. The last lap battle with Pruett and Angelelli was a made for TV moment and I am glad we were able to come out on top. The qualifying races were very good for us, with Pat winning one at Laguna. If it wasn't for me misreading the white flag I could have had a win in one myself at VIR. The team was the only group running the Porsche Crawford package at the beginning and it was a real advantage. The top teams in the series really became stronger toward the middle and end of the season when we were having our problems. I think we learned a lot and really left a mark on the series as a first year team running in the Daytona Prototype category. I am looking forward to next year!"
Patrick Long is pleased with the way the season played out. "We had some of the usual growing pains of a first year team in a new series with a new car. It would have been nice to win the championship the first year and it almost felt that way with our start to the season. The beginning of the year was full of -- optimism with the way our pre-season testing went and then we all but dominated at the Daytona 24. We missed Mexico and then went to Homestead and won, had a good run at Long Beach and then Mike's spectacular move on the last lap at VIR with our new Ruby Tuesday deal was great! We then hit a mid season slump with some mechanical and on-track issues that set us back. We went from first in the points to seventh in a matter of three races. On our second visit to Daytona we turned it around and put a string of podium finishes together that helped us rebound in the points. On a personal level I qualified an average of second, won the qualifying race at Laguna Seca and was able to lead one of my racing heros, Scott Pruett, around Daytona for an hour. We had a great team spirit with the Alex Job guys. After we got the two wins the team was not happy unless we won. We need to carry that forward to '07."
"2006 was the team's first season running our own Grand Am Daytona Prototype entry and it was a roller coaster ride," said Alex Job, team owner. "An up-and-down ride both emotionally and performance wise. Holly and I stuck our necks out and purchased the car because we wanted to compete at the front of the grid. Daytona had us running the only Porsche powered Crawford combination in the field. We had much valued help from Rod Emory as well as from Shred-it and XM Radio on the car. The real emotion started when we had to miss Mexico City and we were able to get Skip Winfree and 10th and M Seafoods on the car for Homestead and Long Beach. Just when we were ready to put the for sale sign on the car after Long Beach we were able to have Ruby Tuesday come onboard for the remainder of the season and into 2007. Performance wise, we also had peaks and valleys. At Daytona, we really had the field covered and it looked as if we could win right out of the box. We proved our speed at Homestead with our first win and held our own at Long Beach. Virginia was a dream event, with Ruby Tuesday on the car for the first time and a last lap, last turn move by Mike to win the race. Magic. We hit a tough patch after that as we sorted through technical issues and car contact from Laguna Seca to Mid-Ohio. However the qualifying races were keeping us in the points battle. From our second visit to Daytona up through the second race at Watkins Glen we were able to put together string of podium finishes.
Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona, Qualify 1, Finish 3
The season opener had the number 23/Shred-it/Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports/Porsche/
Crawford effort full of optimism for the season opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. The team had all but dominated opening test sessions at Homestead and Daytona. Qualifying proved the team's competitiveness with Lucas Luhr putting the Shred-it car on the pole in its first official outing. Starting from pole position, the local team from Tavares wasted no time in stamping their mark at the front of the field. Soon after the start the Achilles heal of the weekend appeared, in the form of a broken rear boot on the cars right rear half-shaft. Following the first half-shaft change on lap 55 the team went seven laps down after leading. Drivers Patrick Long, Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller set out to make up what appeared to be an insurmountable deficit. Not so. The three Porsche factory drivers drove the number 23/Shred-it/Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports/Porsche/Crawford in 110% sprint mode. Luhr set fast lap of the race with a time of 1:44.299. Luhr and Rockenfeller ran laps in the one-minute-and-forty-four range all through the night and into the day until they retook the lead of the race on lap 486 at 4:15 a.m. The car cruised in the lead the rest of the early morning hours until the sun came up, bringing with it the second axle failure. Once again the drivers were forced to push the Crawford/Porsche, but 24 hours was not enough to make up the debit.
Homestead Raceway, Qualify 1, Finish 1
Forgoing the second round in Mexico City the team returned to the track with sponsorship from Great Alaska Salmon and Skip Winfree of 10th and M Seafoods. Mike Rockenfeller started the number 23/Alex Job Racing/10th and M Seafoods/Porsche/Crawford from the pole position only to lose the lead going into the first turn as a result of an over zealous competitor. The young German believed that the 39 car had jumped the start. When the series officials did not black flag the 39, Rockenfeller put his head down and passed for the lead just 14 laps later. Once in the lead the duo of Long and Rockenfeller were only shuffled back in the order following pit stops. Strategy played heavy on the team's success, team technical director Mike Evans called a near perfect race from pit lane, leaving the drivers with fresh tires at the end to post the first win in Daytona Prototypes, first win overall for the team as well as the Porsche/Crawford combination.
Long Beach Grand Prix, Qualify 2, Finish 2
Round four had the team taking to the streets of Long Beach thanks to the support Scott Strady and hirewise. Thousand Oaks, California born Long started the Alex Job Crawford Porsche from the front row. At the start the young Porsche factory driver took a cautious approach to the notorious Long Beach turn one, coming across the start finish line for his second circuit of the ocean side street course in third. That is when he went to work; passing for second and then on lap four taking the overall lead. A full course caution on lap 10 had the team bring Long into the pits for a strategic driver change, putting Mike Rockenfeller behind the wheel. Rockenfeller rejoined the fray in third place as a result of the team having to add water to the Porsche during the pit stop. On lap 22 the race restarted, with Rockenfeller moving into second position just two laps later. The German Porsche pilot was not able to run down the winning 01 car and had to settle for the second step on the podium.
Virginia International Raceway, Qualify 2, Finish 1
Virginia International Raceway, site of round four, had the team revealing their new season long sponsorship with Ruby Tuesday. Following a strong qualifying race by Mike Rockenfeller, finishing second, Patrick Long started the number 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche powered Crawford from the front row. Long was able to race into the lead on the first lap into the first turn. The young Californian was able to pace the field for the first 30 laps until a caution period slowed the action and he pitted on lap 31. Mike Rockenfeller took over the Alex Job Racing prepared Porsche Crawford returning to the fight in eighth place. From that position Rockenfeller ran steady fast laps until reaching third position. On the last lap, what looked like a certain bottom step of the podium became victory in the last turn. The leading number 10 car was slowed by a GT competitor and the 01 also had to lift, opening the door for Rockenfeller to rocket by to take the win.
Laguna Seca, Qualify 1, Finish 24
Laguna Seca was the next circuit up for the Florida based team. Mike Rockenfeller started the two-hour-and-forty-five minute race from pole position on the strength of Patrick Long's qualifying race win the previous day. Rockenfeller was able to lead to the second yellow, some 21 laps into the race. The young German pitted and turned the Alex Job Racing prepared Porsche powered Crawford over to Long, who went to exit the pit box and was hemmed in causing the crew to pull him back, losing valuable time as top competitors were able to beat him out of the pits. When Long returned to the fight he was 17th. Over the course of 26 laps the Californian was able to move the number 23 Ruby Tuesday car back up to sixth place. On lap 50 coming through the Cork Screw turn he reported trouble with the shift lever and pitted. The crew set about repairing the shift linkage returning Long to the fray some seven laps down.
Phoenix International Raceway, Qualify 19, Finish 20
Phoenix, round seven, had guest driver Marcel Tiemann behind the wheel for the qualifying race. Tiemann was involved in an early race wreck, causing extensive damage to the Ruby Tuesday car. Race day started on a high note with drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long running at the top of the time sheet in the prerace warm-up. This gave the team a much needed boost in spirits after working until 3:00 a.m. in the morning making repairs following the qualifying race crash the previous evening. What has been a difficult weekend for the Ruby Tuesday team crew was exacerbated when a faulty alternator forced Mike Rockenfeller to pit on lap 33 of the night race. At the time the young German had made an amazing run from his 19th starting position to fifth when the team called him in to make the repair. The resulting fix sent the Ruby Tuesday car down the results sheet several laps making the weekend a character builder.
Watkins Glen International 6-hour, Qualify 5, Finish 15
The Watkins Glen six-hour was next on the plate for the Ruby Tuesday team. Race day conditions offered up a mixed bag for the 25 car Daytona Prototype field. A combination of drizzle and drying conditions had the Ruby Tuesday crew shuffling slicks and rain tires off of the Alex Job Racing prepared Porsche powered Crawford all day. With the varied weather, drivers Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller, were constantly negotiating a changing track, at one point on slick tires when the majority of the field had switched over to grooved rubber. The changing environment had the young duo being dropped back in the field due to pit stops, but they were able to come back and even managed to lead a few laps on the day. As the hours slipped away into the final two, the team was poised for a run at a podium position until contact going into the famed Bus Stop chicane put Patrick Long into the gravel. The result was a stranded Ruby Tuesday number 23 that had to be extricated costing laps and a possible podium finish.
Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course, Qualify 1, Finish 20
At Mid-Ohio the team was hoping their luck had turned, after inheriting the pole position following post qualifying technical inspection on Friday. Patrick Long was able to lead more than 26 laps in the number 23 Ruby Tuesday car at the start of the race. On lap 23 he reported a low battery light. The failing electrics forced him to pit on lap 40 to change the battery. This began a series of pit stops which finally resulted in the team changing two batteries and then finally the alternator on lap 65 costing valuable track position and laps.
Daytona International Speedway, Qualify 7, Finish 2
The Ruby Tuesday team returned to Daytona for the annual July event. Mike Rockenfeller started the Ruby Tuesday number 23 Porsche powered Daytona Prototype from the fourth row based upon team owner points. From the outset the young German was able to rocket his way into the lead, eventually taking over on lap 22. By the time he turned the car over to teammate Patrick Long on lap 32 he was able to amass a six-second lead. Long took over and when the pit stops finally cycled through he was back in the lead just six laps later. The Californian was under constant pressure from the 01 for the lead throughout his stint. With the race running caution free from lap five, fuel mileage became the story of the race. The top runners had to pit for a splash of gas, with the number 76 car able to go the distance on just one stop.
Barber Motorsport Park, Qualify 2, Finish 3
Barber Motorsport Park was the site for round 11. Patrick Long started the number 23 Ruby Tuesday car from the front row for the two-hour-and-forty-five minute race. At the drop of the green flag, the young Californian went for the lead and was pushed wide by the number 10 in turn one, shuffling him back to fourth. By the end of the first lap Long was able to repass for third and was back-up to second position by lap eight. On lap 19, Long turned the Alex Job Racing prepared Porsche Crawford over to Mike Rockenfeller. Rockenfeller played the Iron Man and finished the last hour-and-forty-five minutes of the race. What looked like rain, which never materialized, had the teams on their toes with strategy. Rockenfeller returned to the race in eleventh position and through strong moves in traffic was able to work his way back to the top three. The German factory driver was poised for one last shot at victory, but was not able to improve any further in the final five lap dash to the finish.
Watkins Glen, Qualify 3, Finish 3
The Ruby Tuesday team returned to Watkins Glen to run the short course. Mike Rockenfeller started the number 23 Ruby Tuesday car from the second row and was able to hold his position throughout the first lap. Within the first 15 laps of the race there were three caution periods which bunched the field back up. On the fourth caution, at lap 31, Rockenfeller pitted the Alex Job Racing prepared Porsche Crawford and turned the wheel over to teammate Patrick Long. Long returned to the battle in fourth and was able to retake the third spot by lap 47. The young Californian was having trouble matching the pace of the Lexus and Pontiac cars in front of him up the lengthy Watkins Glen back straight and had to settle for third.
Infineon Raceway, Qualify 3, Finish 20
The series visited Infineon Raceway for the first time in its history. Patrick Long started the number 23 Ruby Tuesday car from his third place qualifying position and was able to take second on the first lap. On lap 10 the young Californian was lapping a GT car in the carousel and was forced off the track, dropping him back to tenth position. On lap 22 Long pitted and handed the car over to teammate Mike Rockenfeller. The German set about turning fast laps working the number 23 Ruby Tuesday entry up to fifth position. Rockenfeller's run was also not without incident. On lap 33 he was hit from behind by a GT car, causing body damage as well as left side exhaust trauma. On the final fuel stop and driver change back to Long, the fuel apparatus was not fully disengaged when Long left the pits and a small fire ensued. The Ruby Tuesday crew were quick to extinguish the flame and Long returned to the race five laps later and soldiered on to take the checker.
Miller Motorsport Park, Qualify 2, Finish 10
In the series finale at Miller Motorsport Park, Mike Rockenfeller started the number 23/Ruby Tuesday/Alex Job Racing/Porsche Crawford from his second place qualifying position and was able to rocket to the lead by the first turn. What became a drag race down the long Miller front straight was won by the young German Porsche factory driver. Rockenfeller proceeded to pace the field his entire first stint before pitting. On the pit stop a slow fuel hose moved Rockenfeller back to third. He was able to make his way back up to second place before turning over to Terry Borcheller. Borcheller was also shuffled back to third during the pit stops but was able to pass for second and run fast consistent lap times in his hunt to retake the lead. On lap 63 Brocheller turned the car over to Ralf Kelleners who rejoined the race in third. About five hours into the race Kelleners reported a left rear vibration. The German pitted the Alex Job Racing prepared Porsche Powered Crawford on lap 97 and the team replaced the left rear upper control arm costing them four laps. When Kelleners returned to the battle he was in 17th position. Borcheller and Rockenfeller negotiated the final stints under dirty track conditions and from dusk to darkness. The Ruby Tuesday duo were able to makeup a lap and drive the car back to a top ten finish. The race went the full nine-hour distance with only one caution period.